July 28, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Rob Gronkowski plays oversized role in Bucs’ Super Bowl win

He came out of retirement to help Tom Brady win another Super Bowl. And, as usual, tight end Rob Gronkowski played a huge role in completing the task.

On Sunday, Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes from Brady in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Gronkowski caught six passes for 67 yards and won his fourth Super Bowl title. Brady has won seven Super Bowl championships.

“What a journey it’s been,” Gronkowski said during a videoconference with reporters. “What a story it’s been.”

Gronkowski, 31, and Brady, 43, were a nearly unstoppable tandem during their nine seasons together with the New England Patriots.

Two years ago, Gronkowski made a huge play to set up the game-deciding touchdown in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. But pain from injuries caused him to retire with a year left on his contract.

“I remember after that win I was so done,” he said. “Coming off the field, I was like, ‘I’m just glad it’s over,’ just the pain I was in too. It was great to be champ but it just felt great to be done.”

The five-year clock on Gronkowski’s eligibility for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was running when Brady signed with the Buccaneers last March.

“He hit me up and he’s like, ‘Would you come down?’” Gronkowski said. “And I was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been waiting for you to make a move.’”

In April, the Patriots traded Gronkowski to the Buccaneers for a fourth-round draft pick.

Gronkowski caught 45 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns during the season. He had only two receptions in playoff victories over Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay, but he broke out against the Chiefs.

“It’s great to see big-time players making big-time plays. Just love what they added to the team,” Brady said of Gronkowski and receiver Antonio Brown.

Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Brady found Gronkowski for an eight-yard touchdown pass that gave the Buccaneers a lead they never surrendered.

In the second quarter, Gronkowski increased the lead to 14-3 when he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass, giving him five Super Bowl touchdown catches.

“You never know with this offense who’s going to get the ball, who’s going to make the plays because we have so much talent,” said Gronkowski, who also had a 25-yard reception. “It just happened to be me this time.”

Brady and Gronkowski have teamed up for 14 postseason touchdowns, the most in NFL history.

“Just to come here and just have a situation like this with so many great players and be Super Bowl 55 champs, its just unreal,” he said. “It’s surreal, man.”

Fournette finds way

Tampa Bay running back Leonard Fournette sprints to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown run.

(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Leonard Fournette began the season in an uncertain situation.

A week before the opener, the Jacksonville Jaguars released the running back they had selected with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft.

Fournette signed with the Buccaneers, who had starter Ronald Jones II and veteran LeSean McCoy.

Fournette took a back seat to Jones for most of the season, but when Jones was sidelined because of a broken finger and then being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Fournette stepped up.

His late-season and postseason success continued Sunday as he rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries. He also caught four passes for 46 yards.

“It’s a great story I can tell my kids about keeping faith, staying focused, a whole bunch of things,” Fournette said.

On Sunday, Fournette said he took advantage of scouting reports that indicated the Chiefs were not great tacklers.

“Sometimes you make a guy miss and at the same time punch ’em in the mouth,” he said. “And at the end of the game they’re not going to want to tackle.

“And that’s exactly what happened.”

Fournette joined Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis as the only players to score one or more touchdowns in four games of a single postseason, according to NFL.com.

“He was amazing and just did it all,” Brady said. “Blocked, ran, just had an incredible season. We got him pretty late and he just showed up big. It was amazing how he performed in the biggest moments. Just so proud of him.”

Jones, the former USC standout, rushed for 61 yards in 12 carries, but he was stopped short of the goal line in a key first-half series.

Early in the second quarter, Jones carried the ball for seven yards and then eight yards before Brady connected with receiver Mike Evans for 31 yards.

On first and goal at the six-yard line, Jones rushed for four yards. But on third and fourth down he was stopped short of the goal.

Penalty problems

In the first half, the Chiefs were penalized eight times for 95 yards, several that directly helped the Buccaneers forge a 21-6 lead.

In the second quarter, Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend dropped a snap but boomed a kick 56 yards. But the Chiefs were penalized for holding, and Townsend was forced to kick again. This time, he shanked a punt that traveled only 29 yards.

The Chiefs forced a Buccaneers drive to stall, and the Buccaneers kicked an apparent 40-yard field goal. But the Chiefs were penalized for holding, giving the Buccaneers a first down. On the next play, Brady connected with Gronkowski for a touchdown.

Later in the second quarter, Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland was called for pass interference. Two plays later, safety Tyrann Mathieu was cited.